The crimson sunset sent rays of fading light through proud oak trees, casting shadows like distant dreams across the small town park. Cold, sharp winds from off the Sierras cut the temperature dramatically, driving the last
remnants of park goers to the safety of their cars. Against the swelling current of vehicles a lone Chevy pickup and it’s driver remained, bathed in the dying light of the horizon.
The endless miles through the night desert had taken their toll. The once silver truck, now covered with bugs and dust, sat parked in stark
contrast to the riot of color on the distant horizon. Archie leaned back against the headrest nursing a cup of road side coffee, looking as worn as the tires that had brought him.
Radio stations buzzed in and out of reception as he fumbled with the Presets; settling on a local sports station turned down low. He looked at the
clock display on the stereo, and muttered “five minutes.” to no one in particular.
On the opposite end of the park was a collection of benches and picnic tables. Occupying one of these benches, under the shelter of a nearby
tree, sat a haggard looking man. Fading sunlight fell against gaunt features as the man turned his face towards the blood-red horizon.
He was in his mid-forties with disheveled hair, of an average height and slender build; He wore a torn red flannel over a gray t-shirt, and faded jeans. He kept his large nose and pointy face towards the west as he slowly rocked back and forth. The last remnant of fleeing park patrons journeyed past his bench. Occasionally one of them tossed spare change in the Styrofoam cup sitting next to him. He would turn and mutter “God bless you” and continue rocking.
Archie set the coffee on the dashboard, where it cast faint silhouettes of steam upon the windshield. A last quick glance at the clock display read 7:45. Fighting against the wind, he managed to open his door. Using his foot to keep it open, he quickly lumbered out and let it slam behind him.
The man on the bench stood slowly, hands in his pockets with his eyes still fixed on the sunset, and sighed. He stood still, solemn like a statue
as the last light of hope caressed his face, and warmly said goodbye. The sun was all but gone now, hidden behind the Sierras, as the man slowly turned away.
Archie straightened himself after exiting his truck, brushed doughnut crumbs from his pants, and began walking into the park. At six foot one
with broad shoulders, and a large build he cut an impressive figure. He had light brown hair brushed back lazily, and falling forward into blue eyes. Ten feet from his truck Archie paused, straightened his tan dress shirt, and brushed the wrinkles from his black cotton slacks. After he was satisfied that his appearance was presentable, he brushed the one untamable strand of hair from his eyes and began walking into the park.
“Okay Chris, hour’s up.”
Chris had walked ten paces from his bench; and was looking Archie directly in the eyes for the first time in an hour. The last slivers of light
reflected off the small lake that lay behind, and fell against the slender figure who stood a mere twenty yards from his inevitable fate.
Thunder cracked in the distance; the air split in two, and the silence was shattered. Archie didn’t see where the shot came from, or see it hit Chris between the shoulders; but he heard it, and he watched as Chris suddenly pitched forward.
Time stood still, while everything happened too fast. Archie realized that he was moving out of reflex towards Chris, who was now laying face
down in the grass. Thinking better of the move he made a quick cut to his right, a bullet cracking past his left ear.
Archie was in a frantic scramble. Stranded in the open, and racing for the collection of tables, benches, and trees, that Chris had come from. He changed his pace frequently, darting left, and right as he was trained to do. Desperately he fought to keep the shooter from drawing a bead.
A third shot missed high, and wide, splintering into a tree.A few feet from the bench Chris had formerly occupied, Archie made a headfirst dive for cover. He landed hard on his right side, and his momentum carried him into the legs of the bench with a thud. He got to one knee, and slipped his Glock G17 from its holster.
Scanning the horizon, Archie wondered why he had bothered pulling his gun. He was hopelessly outranged, had only a general idea of where the
shooter was, and since his ammo was currently locked up safe and sound in an ammo box under the seat of his truck, his gun was not even loaded. Regardless of these facts he kept the pointless firearm trained on the horizon.
Just as quickly as it happened the park became oddly quiet. Barely breathing, Archie searched for any trace of the shooter. The lake was
completely still, as was Chris. The drone of automobiles seemed worlds away, and all sound was drowned out by the foreboding silence. Even the wind stopped its onslaught and kept silent, as if to pay its respects.